Forward to Katherine.

bird (2)

Derek drives like no-one I have ever met. He totally concentrates. He sees everyone. He calculates what they are doing so he can do what he needs to do and make sure they have room. He will see that someone is going to need to change lanes up ahead so he will slow down so the 3 cars in front of him can make room for that car. While we were driving he would constantly check on the curves to see if there were cars behind us so he could let them pass. Sometimes he would just pull over if there were a lot of them and the road was difficult.

He would track the caravans ahead and behind us to see what speed they were travelling. Those behind who were gaining on us would need room to pass us and he would give it to them. Those ahead of us that we were gaining on, he had to figure out how we could safely pass them, so, a caravan on the horizon immediately brought the standard, “bugger.”

One morning we came upon a slow moving caravan and the road was miles of nearly impossible to pass, single laned, rough road. It was way ahead of us. We had only gone a few miles when we met a couple of trucks with flashing lights saying “Wide Load.” As we climbed a hill and came down the other side we could see that up a bit, the caravan had pulled over, off the road, which was not an easy thing to do on that road. Derek caught up to him, slowed down and pulled alongside. We stopped completely and he asked if they were all right which started a barrage of words. The words flew out of their vehicle and into ours with such speed and force that they made both of us instantly jump back in our seats to avoid being hit.

“Don’t you have a CB, MATE?” The man was looking at us like we were both odd and slightly feeble minded.

Derek replied with a big grin on his face, jumping straight into his role, “I do, but I don’t have it turned on, why?”

I was trying hard not to laugh but realized I needed to play the supporting role. I got into my “we did not see those brightly coloured vehicles all taped up with neon and the big flashing lights driving down the middle of the road as slow as snails and if we did, we don’t have a clue what it all meant” role.

“There is a big load coming down the road, MATE!!” Now the man’s hands were out the window gesturing with the same movements I have seen others make when predicting the end of the world. Chicken Little added a dance when she screamed that the “sky was falling” but this man was still safely seat buckled in, probably for fear of their lives once the “wide load” hit and therefore he was unable to dance. I am sure it would have been epic and exactly like Chicken Little’s.

Derek and I looked up the road to where he was pointing. We could see for miles. The road was clear.
We both nodded and looked confused.

The man continued, “It’s (indiscernible but the number had to be impressive judging from the shade of red his face turned as he spit out the number) feet high and will cover the whole road, MATE!!!” Every statement he was making was punctuated with the word “mate,” added with a tone that suggested accusation instead of friendship. Again, he was gesturing with his hands, both the immense apocalypse of a load about to plow into us and the impact itself.

Suddenly the wife leaned forward and joined in with her partner, screaming in a sharp, nails on chalkboard, soprano but as the harmony to her husband’s high tenor, “It will run right over you and smash you to bits, MATE. You got to get off the road, MATE!” Evidently, the use of “mate” as punctuation ran in the family. She was making wide sweeps with her arm starting with pointing at us and ending at the side of the road. The wind alone from the ferocity of her arms was almost enough to suck us over to the side of the road.

Thank heavens Derek’s foot was firmly on the brake.

The husband was nodding, “You got to turn on your CB, MATE.” He was sort of half screaming, half crying, pleading.

She leaned forward, grabbing the dashboard to pull herself forward and screamed at us, “Get off the road, MATE! This thing will destroy you, MATE. And for crying out loud, you have to turn on your CB, MATE. Only idiots drive this area without it turned on, MATE. What do you think THIS is for, MATE?” She had reached for the microphone and held it up to her mouth, yelling into it as she talked to us. Then she showed it to us, almost climbing over her husband to hold it out the window for us to see.

Derek was nodding and grinning. He held up his like he had just discovered it.

I decided it was probably not a good time to point out that she was holding up the part that you speak into. The listening part of the thing was in the truck. It is at times like this that I really appreciate the months spent at retreats drinking wheatgrass smoothies, eating bark and learning how to be calm. Meditation really works. Not as well as prescription meds but there is definitely some residual calmness which comes in handy, at times like this, for example.

Him, “Nobody drives around these parts without their CB on, MATE.”
Her, “Nobody, MATE.”
Him, “Turn your CB on, MATE. That is what they are for, MATE.”
Her, “Got to turn it on, MATE.”
Him, “Everyone keeps their CB’s on, MATE.”
Her, “If yours had been on you would have known to get off the road, MATE!”
Him, “You better get off the road MATE. They told us all to pull over, MATE.”
Her, “Hurry, the thing is huge, it is going to smash you and your caravan to bits, MATE.”

Their words ricocheted off of the truck. I slid down in my seat a little but Derek was just smiling and nodding like an idiot.

Where was that bag of Xanax when you needed it? I wanted to just throw a handful into the cab of their truck . . . for purely humanitarian reasons of course. They needed an intervention and there wasn’t time for us to round up a doctor and loved ones. I could see the veins in both of their necks. Her hands were clenched onto the dashboard in a death like vice grip and I was afraid she was going to break a piece of the dashboard off. Either she was going to have a heart attack of her head would explode. I wanted to tell her, “Honey, honey …. Take a deep breath. I can see you are really upset about the big truck that is coming but calm your ruffles, we will all be OK. Do you want to talk about it? No. Do you need anything for it?” And then I wanted to throw the Xanax.

But I didn’t.

I didn’t have any.

Derek said, “Oh OK, thanks.” Then he pulled up in front of them and over and we waited for the truck to appear. We waited and we waited. Three months later, it finally appeared. It passed. We drove off.

I said, ” What a bunch of whackadoodles. They never even thanked you for checking up on them. What if they were in need of assistance? And you, they called you an idiot and all you did was smile and nod? He was way out of line . . . And THAT wife!!”

Derek just smiled and said, ” I got in front of him, didn’t I?

As we pulled away, CB turned on because we were afraid at one point the woman was going to come over and check if we had done what we were told, we heard the driver of the wide load say over the open air “thanks for getting everyone pulled over, you have a good day now.” Derek grabbed the mic and replied, “no problem, mate,” taking full credit for the 4 caravans pulled over at that spot. We were in front after all AND you don’t really know who is talking half the time anyway. I could almost hear the caravan behind us imploding. We drove off leaving everyone in the dust.

After a few miles, we heard, “Have you finally got it turned on MATE?” with a background countermelody of “You are lucky you were not smashed to bits, MATE. No-one travels around these places without their CB on, MATE.” There were more lines to the chorus but you can just scroll back up and re-read her original comments … same thing ….but now “mate” sounded more like a knife being thrown.

Derek played with them for awhile saying he had no idea, and thanks so much for all their help and yes, we would keep it turned on now. They were getting angrier and angrier and wanting him to know how stupid he was and he just kept responding like they were the most wonderful new friends we had ever met. When they had finished telling us, we hung up on our new “mates,” . . . and turned the CB off.

On to Katherine.